Bilic personally watched the £5.6million PFA Player of the Year nominee playing with Caen in France.
"We were quite close. I watched him in France, in Nice," Bilic said. "He was a good player, the same player he is now with Leicester.
"A holding midfielder, not very tall, but he's one of those players that you think after 20 minutes that there are twins, that there are two of them because the energy, the cleverness he plays with. He's always there.
"When you watch a game on television there are players that are always on telly. They are never out of the picture, whatever you see, you see them, he's one of them.
"That's not only an ability involving big lungs or legs or whatever, it's in the head.
"So, he was there but then we got some players before in the same positions and it would simply have been too many players for the same position."